Now, there are a lot of answers to this question. Maybe you want to lose weight. Maybe you want to improve your memory and boost your brain power along with your muscles. Maybe you want to prevent diseases like diabetes and cancer in addition to increasing your cardiovascular endurance. Maybe you want to have better sex.
Those are all good reasons for working out. And no matter what your reason, we want to welcome you to our facilities and help you achieve your goals. But we happen to think that the best reason for working out is this: love.
So much of the culture around working out is about punishment and shame. In part, that’s because for a long time, exercise and physical fitness was dominated by men. There was a macho dynamic in place, encouraged in part by early bodybuilders like Charles Atlas and others, who were themselves influenced by ancient Greek physical education practises that shut women out. For most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, physical exercise was seen as a “masculine” habit, and much of the language was informed by other “masculine” activities, like basic military training. A lot of kids, both boys and girls, grew up to hate exercise simply because they’d been made to run laps and do push-ups by cruel gym teachers who were imitating drill sergeants.
That’s one of the reasons we offer women a place to work out together. We know that when women work together, they create powerful relationships and get real work done. So we wanted to give them a space where they could meet, make friends, and get fit without the same baggage that comes with co-ed gyms.
On the other hand, everybody brings their own baggage to the gym — and it’s often a lot heavier than any set of weights. Shame is a powerful motivator, but it shouldn’t be what brings you through our doors. If it’s your bully’s voice (or your ex’s, or your mother-in-law’s) that you hear on the treadmill, it might be time to re-program your attitude. Why? It’s not just because shame is an ineffective way to encourage good health. It’s because the only one living in your body is you.
Much of the dialogue around attractiveness is about controlling women’s bodies. How they “should” look, how they “should” act, and so on. That stems from a culture that treats women like property, as though they’re just objects to be looked at and not, you know, real human beings with their own dreams and desires. But in reality, the only one who has any business telling you what to do with your body is you. That includes how to exercise it, how to build it up, and how to make it healthy. You are your own vehicle on the journey of life. Take it from Cameron Diaz:
“Right now, whatever shape you are in, your body is an amazing machine that does so many cool things, from using the air in our environment to keep your brain alive to turning a bowl of cereal into an explosion of energy that allows you to run down the street to catch the bus,” she says in her introduction [to her new book]. “And knowing how to take care of that body is the most important information you can ever learn. Ever.”
So, it’s time for a mental exercise in addition to all the physical exercise you do. The next time you’re talking down to yourself, pretend you’re talking to your daughter. Or your mom. Or your sister. Or your best friend. Pretend you’re talking to someone you love. Because you should be.